This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, December 28, 1994

December 28, 1994 - "Parker: a Folk History"

This is the time when you look both backward (the end of one year) and forward (the dawn of another).

As I look back over 1994, I can't help but notice that the library branch that's at the center of Douglas Public Library District action, the branch that's hot and happening ... moves around. At the beginning of the year, the Highlands Ranch Library was getting a face lift and expansion. In the latter part of the year, we managed to both purchase a new Parker Library (to open in 1995) and sell the old one (to Parker Water and Sanitation District).

In years past, our efforts have focused more on the Oakes Mill and the Philip S. Miller Library. Their time will come again.

I find it helpful to recognize patterns, to understand that every institution, and each of the smaller institutions that make it up, has its own distinct rhythms, its hours of glory alternating with spans of more modest accomplishment.

This is as it should be. After all, even Olympic athletes are asleep about a third of their lives. Rest, too, is a part of achievement.

Besides, the real turning points in people's lives aren't necessarily the things that hit the papers. Those moments happen behind the scenes, in the back rooms, when only one or two people are looking.

The story of all these moments -- both glorious and quietly key -- is the larger story of history. It's what history means -- the folk lessons along with the dry chronologies.

These days, the Town of Parker is hot and happening. What better time then, to reflect on the days that came before?

On January 8, 1995, local author Sandra Whelchel will be the guest speaker for the Douglas Public Library District's Second Sunday Series talk. We're calling this one, "Parker, Colorado: A Folk History."

If you haven't attended one of our previous Sunday Series talks, then it's time you gave it a look. All are held at the Philip S. Miller Library in Castle Rock, beginning at 2 in the afternoon. (We hold it at Castle Rock in part because there's more meeting space, and in part because it also houses our still young Local History Collection.)

Our first session for this round, back in November, was on the history of Perry Park, and featured local author Ardis Webb. Our third and final Second Sunday Series lecture (on March 12) will be "Castle Rock: A Grassroots History," by another local author -- Robert Lowenberg.

Who knows? By the time March rolls around, it just might be Castle Rock's time of tumult (and I don't just mean earthquakes). Be sure to pencil in both dates in your spanking new, 1995 calendars.

Tuesday, December 20, 1994

December 20, 1995 - Changes for 95 - loan periods, book budge

There will be some changes in the library next year.

Perhaps most significant to most people is that the library will lengthen some of its loan periods. Thank you to the many folks who responded to my informal survey back in November. Thanks also to the Library Board, who unanimously approved the changes at our December Board meeting.

Effective January 1, 1995:

* Most materials that now go out for 2 weeks (most books, periodicals, paperbacks, audiocassettes) will be checked out for 3 weeks.

* These items may only be renewed twice (or until someone else places a hold on it, at which point no more renewals can be made).

* Our new fiction (called "Green Dots" because of the green sticky dots we put on them) will have only one renewal, and again, only if no one else has a reserve on it.

* Our former "grace period" (which allowed patrons to return a book up to six days late without receiving any fines) will be shortened to three days for most materials. That is, if you return the book within three days after the stamped due date, there will be no fine. On the fourth day after the stamped due date, you'll be fined for four days overdue. New fiction, as always, will NOT have a grace period. We want to encourage you to get them back, because odds are good that people are looking for them even if they haven't put them on hold.

* The videos that now circulate for 2 days will circulate for 4 days. There will be no grace period, and no renewals.

* Instructional videos will continue to circulate for 1 week, with up to two renewals, and with the 3 day grace period.

There are also a few other library changes I'd like to highlight for 1995.

* We expect to see a significant build-up of our overall collection. The basic inflation rate for most library materials is about 4 percent. In 1995, we'll be increasing expenditures for books by about 13 percent. Our goal since 1990 has been to have at least 4 books (or other library materials) per Douglas County resident. We're up to about two-and-a-half. This will enable our collections to maintain an aggressive growth rate, and to build up an "opening day" collection for the new Parker Library, projected to open in the last quarter of 1995.

We've beefed up our budget for Audio and video cassettes by even more -- 17.7 percent (although this will still constitute a fraction of our budget for books). AV materials have somewhat less of an effect on overall space needs in the library, and, after books, have become our most popular offerings.

* We're budgeting new money for electronic resources. We will replace a lot of our older public terminals with terminals that make it easier to cruise the Internet (and other Colorado libraries, such as the joint catalog of the Arapahoe Library District and Aurora Public). We'll be picking up some new CD-ROM titles. We're still working on installing full text periodical articles through our system, and hope to have a demo up by February 1.

Overall, thanks to your support, we believe the Douglas Public Library District will be an even better library next year. Thanks again for telling us what you want.

Tuesday, December 13, 1994

December 13, 1994 - managing your money

This may not be the right time of year to raise the subject. On the other hand, it would be hard to find a time when the need was greater.

What IS the subject? -- Managing your money.

Beginning Wednesday, January 18, 1995, CSU's Extension Office, as well as the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons), 1st Bank, Castle Rock Senior Center, and the AAUW (American Association of University Women), are sponsoring a 7 session series entitled "Is Money on Your Mind?" I'm betting that around Christmas, it is.

The meetings will be held at the Castle Rock Senior Center, and run from 7 to 9:30 p.m. There is a cost for the program: $25. But that buys you a workbook and numerous useful handouts.

Who is the intended audience of the series? -- Women. As one program flyer declares, "Take Charge of Your Life by Taking Charge of Your Money!"

The flyer also proclaims: "It's never too late to make changes in the way you handle your money. Whether you're 20 or 70, the best things in life are worth planning for." The program will focus on the following useful topics:

* Getting organized: where do you want to be? I know: you want to be rich. Declaring a goal is the first step to reaching it. HOW you want to be rich is another one.

* Cash flow. Let me guess: it flows all right, but it's all downhill. Taking a look at where your money goes can be an eye- opening experience. There is a pattern to your spending. Once you recognize it, you may want to amend it.

* Banking and credit. As with most public institutions: you can use them, or they can use you. Credit is the key.

* Managing your risks. Let's face it: you can't AVOID risks. But you can calculate the odds before you act.

* Investment choices. No investment at all is another kind of choice, but the return is fairly predictable. Maybe it's time to try something else.

* Where and how to get professional help (presumably for managing money). As with any other area of human activity, there are professionals and amateurs. When is it time to ask an expert? And when DON'T you need one?

I've spoken to several women who have taken the classes in the past. They say they learned a lot; the information can literally change your life.

It goes without saying -- not that I would LET it go without saying -- that the public library has a host of books on financial planning, covering everything from pricing a wedding, providing for a new baby, buying a house, paying for college, to planning your retirement. We've also worked up some new bibliographies on the subject.

But sometimes there is no substitute for more formal instruction. To register for the course, give the CSU Extension Office a call at 660-4183. They'll get you a registration form.

Few institutions in Douglas County have the credibility of the sponsors of this Women's Financial Information Program. Signing up for this worthwhile program may be the best investment you can make in your financial future.

So before you feel the holiday "sting" (in the form of January bills for December indulgences), why not make this program one of your more "cents-ible" New Year's resolutions?

Wednesday, December 7, 1994

December 7, 1994 - one million books

On the eve of my 13th birthday, my favorite aunt asked me to sit down for a little talk. "Tomorrow," she said, "something horrible will happen to you. It will last for about 7 years. Please don't take this personally, but I really don't want to talk to you for that period."

I laughed. "Aunt Edith," I said, "just because I'll be a teenager doesn't mean that I'll be any different."

"Oh yes it does," she said. "And it's awful."

I don't know how to explain this, but the very next day, I had an uncontrollable urge to buy a polka dot sweatshirt and shades. At almost precisely that moment, I developed strong musical preferences that seemed -- at least to those around me -- predicated on how offensive they were to my parents.

In short, my aunt was right. The teen years were, even for me, mostly horrible. It's that time when you're no longer allowed to be a child, but nobody will let you be an adult. It was a time, I do believe, when what I really needed was some kind of special rite of passage. Our culture isn't very good about providing those.

It was a time of transition, a time of development and/or reinvention of a personality. Therefore, life often felt awkward. I made mistakes, then struggled to learn from them.

It isn't surprising that public institutions -- being founded by people, and consisting of nothing BUT people -- mirror human growth. The Douglas Public Library District has in just four years gone from being among the quieter public libraries in Colorado to being the fifth busiest (after Denver, Jeffco, Pikes Peak, Arapahoe, and Aurora, all of them serving a much larger population base). This is a lot like growing 4 inches a year. We've had growing pains, right down to our bones.

This month, probably sometime around the 17th, our library will celebrate the checkout of our one millionth item in 1994. Since we won't know exactly where that will occur, we'll plan some kind of surprise for whoever checks out the millionth item AT EACH BRANCH.

If you'd like to help us track how quickly we're approaching this milestone in our development, you can get a daily update. From any of our computers, type BB (for Bulletin Board) from our main menu. I'll post the date, the current circulation count, and how many checkouts still remain.

A million items: that's a lot of books, magazines, videotapes, and books on tape. Over a quarter of those will be children's picture books. Almost a hundred thousand will be audiocassettes. As always, however, the overwhelming majority of our business continues to involve books.

Reaching the million mark represents both a quantitative and a qualitative change. Libraries that do that volume of business cannot quite operate the way smaller libraries do. Changes will be with us for a long time to come.

For instance, next year, we're going to be making some adjustments in our loan periods. I got many calls, e-mail messages, and letters about my proposal to go to a 3-week loan period for most materials. To date, all my public messages endorse the change; none oppose it. So come January, we'll do it. We'll also lengthen our loan period for videos.

As a result, in 1995, it's likely that our circulation count will drop back below a million. The shorter loan period makes items move faster.

Nonetheless, we won't be moving backward. We're just going to have to get used to being one of the bigger -- and better -- libraries in Colorado.